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Friday, August 18, 2017

Malloy Would Reduce, Dramatically Redistribute School Aid in October

Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would reduce grants to school districts by 28 percent in October — if no state budget has been adopted —  and would dramatically shift funding away from wealthy and middle-income communities and into poorer ones.

Absent a new two-year budget, the governor’s plan would eliminate Education Cost Sharing funding entirely for 85 school districts [Westport would be cut from $465,334 to zero] and reduce funding somewhat for another 54. Grants to the 30 lowest-performing school systems, also known as Alliance Districts, would remain unchanged.

The governor, who released an updated plan today for running state finances by executive order, also announced he is in the process of restoring $40 million out of $100 million in reductions made since July 1 to private, nonprofit social services.

Malloy affirmed an earlier warning that hundreds of millions of dollars in non-education grants won’t be released this fall unless the General Assembly adopts a new budget for this fiscal year and next.

Click HERE for more of story


08/18/17 06:53 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Malloy Scolds CT Republicans for Silence on Trump

By Kyle Constable and Mark Pazniokas

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today denounced Republicans for suggesting they were too focused on Connecticut’s fiscal issues to repudiate President Trump’s mixed message about the hate groups that marched in Virginia last weekend and the demonstrators who opposed them.

“If you are silent you are complacent,” Malloy said. “And if you are complacent, you are complicit.

“Any elected official who says they are focusing only on Connecticut issues is abdicating their responsibility as an elected official. This is a Connecticut issue. And even if it were not, does anyone seriously believe we are incapable of working on our state budget while also standing united against bigotry?”

Malloy read his statement to reporters hours after a hastily planned vigil at the State Capitol drew about 75 people. It was organized by a Democratic candidate for governor, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew.

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08/17/17 08:27 PM Comments () • Permalink

Regional Planners Agree to Remove $42 Million for Cribari Bridge

By James Lomuscio

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe’s decision to reject $42 million in Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) money for the William F. Cribari Bridge restoration won unanimous support today from members of the Housatonic Valley & South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Image
John Suggs, Westport Representative Town Meeting member, addresses today’s meeting in Ridgefield as Westport First Selectman (l) Jim Marpe listens. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

After public comments from four Westporters for and against, the MPO at its monthly meeting in Ridgefield voted unanimously to remove the money in five line items from the draft of its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2018-21.

“I am requesting that we delete those five line items until the current environmental assessment project is complete, and we have a better understanding of the recommended preliminary design and preferred design,” Marpe told the group..

He said the environmental assessment, which includes the historic and cultural significance of the 1884-built swing bridge currently on the National Register of Historic Places, could take a year-and-a-half to complete. Meanwhile, he said he had serious concerns “about the potential consequences of a major replacement or rehabilitation.”

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08/17/17 02:06 PM Comments () • Permalink

Saturday, August 12, 2017

With Municipal Aid on Chopping Block, a Cordial Chat

By Mark Pazniokas

Evidently resigned to a shrinking pool of state aid, leaders of two municipal associations pressed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday about granting Connecticut’s cities and town flexibility in dealing with public employees to achieve off-setting efficiencies, long a politically fraught topic at the State Capitol.

Malloy’s approach to closing a remaining $1.6 billion state budget shortfall for this year would hit municipalities on at least two fronts: requiring them to contribute to a teacher pension system now wholly financed by the state and teacher conttributions, and writing a new formula to distribute what the governor says must be a reduced budget for education aid.

Given that municipal aid and teacher pensions have been major points of contention in budget talks, the governor’s joint press conference with the executive directors of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and Council of Small Towns (COST) was surprisingly cordial, even if some of their comments had the cautious tone of a diplomatic communique.

“I believe that we had a productive meeting,” Malloy said after his closed-door meeting with Joe DeLong of CCM and Betsy Gara of COST. “That doesn’t mean there were any final products to be produced today, but I share a great many of their concerns and, quite frankly, their goals. I expressed that.”

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08/12/17 08:57 AM Comments () • Permalink

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Marpe: Responding Cautiously to State Request for Budget Information

First Selectman Jim Marpe said today Westport is responding cautiously to a state request for town budget information for fear it may be part of a “picking our pockets” effort to help solve state budget woes.

He told a Board of Selectman meeting that he had received a letter on Monday from Ben Barnes, secretary of the state Office of Policy Management, requesting the information.

Barnes asked about the general fund total balance and unassigned fund balance as well as supplemental information on the potential impact of the state budget problems and Westport’s contingency plans to deal with them, Marpe said.

Specifically, Barnes wanted information about Westport’s possible plans to utilize the fund balance and any plans to issue supplemental tax notices.

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08/09/17 09:45 AM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Candidates @ The Train Image
It’s August, but the campaign for Westport first selectman is underway and three of the candidates mingled with crowds today at the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce’s Tuesdays @ The Train at Luciano Park. Pictured (l-r) Melissa Kane, Democratic nominee, incumbent Republican Jim Marpe, Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Chamber, and John Suggs, independent candidate. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo


08/08/17 06:52 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, August 07, 2017

RTM’s Suggs Running as Independent for First Selectman

By James Lomuscio

The race for Westport’s first selectman in November got narrower today with John F. Suggs, a 10-year member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) announcing his run as an Independent and filing his candidacy with the Office of the Town Clerk. Image
John F. Suggs: wants to get above “partisan bickering and finger-pointing.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Others vying for the top post are Republican incumbent Jim Marpe and Democratic challenger Melissa Kane, also an RTM member.

“I was approached by people from both parties to consider it, people whom I respect who asked if I would consider running as an Independent,” said Suggs “I respect them, and I gave it serious consideration. I talked to my family, and I decided I would do it.”

Suggs, who changed his voter registration from Democrat to unaffiliated, said the main reason he is running is to “get above the partisan bickering and finger-pointing” at a time when of fiscal challenges.

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08/07/17 04:40 PM Comments () • Permalink

Friday, August 04, 2017

Malloy Hails EPA Decision to Tighten Restrictions on Smog

By Ana Radelat

Washington – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today lauded the U.S. Environmental Agency’s reversal of its decision to delay a new rule that would lower the level of ozone emissions permitted from fossil-fuel burning, such as the exhaust from auto tailpipes and power plant smokestacks.

The new Obama-era rule was scheduled to be implemented on Oct. 1, but EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided in June to hold off implementing that rule for about a year to study its impact. A provision in the Clean Air Act allows for the delay of implementation of new regulations if the agency needs to collect more information.

Late Wednesday, Pruitt decided to allow the tougher standards for ozone emissions to be put into place as scheduled.

“This reversal of direction bodes well for the people of Connecticut and for all those fighting for clean air in America,” Malloy said.

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08/04/17 07:00 PM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

RTM OKs Arbitration Award that Trims Employee Benefits

After years of effort, the Town of Westport tonight succeeded in gaining approval to trim employee retirement benefits that a town negotiator said could eventually result in $1.3 million or more in annual savings.

By a vote of 30 to 0 with one abstention, Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voted not to reject an arbitration award involving a pension plan for 13 different municipal and Board of Education unions — not including certified teachers and administrators.

The police and fire unions have had separate pension negotiations, and a fire arbitration decision is expected soon, according to town officials.

The RTM vote culminated an effort dating back at least six years to reduce employee retirement benefits to bring them more in line with the private sector, said Floyd J. Dugas, labor counsel for the town.

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08/01/17 09:36 PM Comments () • Permalink

RTM Elects Jeff Wieser New Deputy Moderator

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight unanimously elected Jeff Wieser of District 4 at its new deputy moderator. Image
New Deputy RTM Moderator Jeff Wieser addresses colleagues after his election tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Wieser, who is chairman of the nonpartisan, 36-member legislative body’s finance committee, replaces Velma Heller in his new role. Heller now serves as the RTM’s moderator, replacing Eileen Lavigne Flug who stepped down last month to assume the post of assistant town attorney.

“I’m really pleased to do this,” said Wieser. “I think we do a good job, and we do it well and conscientiously.” He added, “I’m not sure why, but I really like the RTM.”

Wieser, who is the president and CEO of Homes with Hope, was nominated for the deputy moderator’s position by Lou Mall of District 2, a motion that was seconded by Lauren Karpf of District 7.

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08/01/17 08:18 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, July 31, 2017

After Day of Drama, Senate Democrats Unite to Back Concessions

By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf

On a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, the Senate gave final approval today to a state-employee concessions deal after Democratic leaders mollified three dissenting colleagues with a promise to make a good-faith effort for fiscal reforms.

Uniting all 18 members of the caucus hinged on the willingness by Senate Democratic leaders to at least endorse in concept a dozen fiscal and collective-bargaining reforms sought by three wary Democratic colleagues, any one of whom held the power to kill the deal by voting with Republicans in the evenly divided Senate.

”I’m very pleased that we achieved Democratic unity on this proposal today, and it now helps set us up for the remainder of what will be very difficult budget negotiations,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

The show of unity did not go beyond the vote. The three holdouts — Sens. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Gayle Slossberg of Milford — skipped a post-session news conference with Looney and other Democrats, a sign of remaining difficulties in resolving an impasse that has left Connecticut without a budget for 31 days.

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07/31/17 09:47 PM Comments () • Permalink

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Budget Standoff About to Take a Big Toll on Cities and Towns

By Keith M. Phaneuf

As Connecticut begins its second month without a state budget next week, the cost to cities and towns will take a big leap, topping $100 million.

And while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration warned the toll on municipalities gets much worse in September and October, the governor and his fellow Democrats in the legislature are nearing gridlock, weighing higher sales taxes against reductions in local aid.

The administration confirmed Thursday that, absent a budget, it will not release the $78 million in sales tax receipts due Tuesday to communities as part of a revenue-sharing program enacted two years ago.

The budget standoff already cost municipalities $30 million in road repair grants in July. And if it continues until Sept. 30, property tax relief grants that sent $182 million to cities and towns last fall also would be withheld.

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07/29/17 01:29 PM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Affordable Housing Redo Offers Westport ‘Breathing Room’

By James Lomuscio

The state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g has long been the bane of local municipalities because it allows developers to override zoning regulations if a municipality does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable. Image
Developer Philip Craft of Easton shows off a redesign of his proposed four-story affordable housing complex at 1177 Post Road East, which he presented to the Representative Town Meeting last October. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Westport is one of those towns, and 8-30g has been on the mouths and minds of local officials for years. The fear is that an unscrupulous developer could use it to ride roughshod over zoning regulations by providing just a small percentage of affordable units.

In the meantime, towns have been seeking four-year moratoriums to reach the state mandated housing stock goal by way of points based on affordable housing units in place.

On Monday, concerns over 8-30g lessened, with 138 of the state’s 169 municipalities not at the 10 percent goal catching a break.

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07/25/17 08:30 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, July 24, 2017

House Approves Union Concessions Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf

The House of Representatives today narrowly approved the state employees’ concessions deal that is expected to save as much as $1.57 billion this fiscal year and next combined.

The Democrat-controlled House voted 78-72 almost entirely along party lines to endorse the deal.

The concessions package, which workers ratified earlier this month, tentatively is scheduled to go before the Senate on July 31.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republican leaders objected to today’s vote. They argued that nonpartisan analysts — who hadn’t received all documentation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration until last Friday — were unable to conduct a full review.

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07/24/17 09:10 PM Comments () • Permalink

Legislature Overrides Malloy 8-30G Housing Veto

By Kyle Constable

The General Assembly today dealt a blow to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s housing agenda after legislators voted narrowly to override his veto of a bill that loosens the state’s affordable housing standards known as 8-30g.

Both the House and Senate mustered the two-thirds majorities necessary to override. The margin in the Senate, 24-12, could not have been narrower.

The House voted by a 101-47 margin with 101 votes needed to override. Three members –- two Democrats and one Republican –- were absent and did not vote.

It marks just the fourth time the legislature has overridden one of the governor’s vetoes. The first three came last year.

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07/24/17 08:40 PM Comments () • Permalink

Friday, July 21, 2017

GOP Leader Decries House Push for a Monday Vote on Union Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf

While legislative voting on the proposed union concessions deal could begin Monday, the top Republican in the Senate said the House Democratic leadership was irresponsibly rushing action on a crucial agreement.

Legislators must be at the Capitol on Monday for a constitutionally mandated, one-day session to consider overriding measures vetoed this year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“We will finalize decisions on any potential veto override votes at our caucus meeting Monday, as well as discuss the labor concession agreement, which we expect to vote on later that day,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, wrote in a statement.

But while Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, also scheduled a vote, he’s waiting until July 31 to accommodate lawmakers awaiting more information on the deal.

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07/21/17 07:52 PM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Honoring Ted Diamond at 100 Image
Westport Democrats tonight honored former selectman Ted Diamond on the occasion of his 100th birthday on July 3. Lee Arthurs, secretary of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) served up a cake and candles at the end of the DTC meetng in the Westport Town Hall auditorium. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo


07/18/17 10:48 PM Comments () • Permalink

Democrats Nominate Candidates Image
The Westport Democratic Town Committee tonight officially endorsed its candidates for the November municipal election. Pictured (l-r, top row) Victoria Gouletas, candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals; Brian Stern, candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance; Bernard Deverin, canddiate for re-election to the Zoning Board of Appeals; Danielle Dobin, candidate for re-election to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission;  Jill Saluck, candidate for the P&Z Commission; David Keisman, candidate for re-election to the Board of Assessment Appeals; (front row) Elaine Whitney and Candice Savin, candidates for re-election to the Board of Education; Mellissa Kane, candidate for first selectman; Rob Simmelkjaer, candidate for second selectman; Elaine Arnow, candidate for re-election ot the Board of Assessment Appeals. Not pictured: Lee Caney, candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance, and Michael Cammeyer, candidate for re-election to the P&Z.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for


07/18/17 10:33 PM Comments () • Permalink

Melissa Kane: ‘We Need To Be Able To Do Better’ Image
In accepting the Democratic nomination for first selectman tonight, Melissa Kane told a meeting of the Democratic Town Committee that she has always loved how expressive Westporters are in promoting causes such as protecting open space and working to stop hate. She added, however: “We need to be able to do a better job of making Westport work for all Westporters. And we need to attract future generations to Westport because of what we stand for and because of who we are.” See text of Kane’s speech HERE. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for


07/18/17 10:30 PM Comments () • Permalink

Republicans Nominate Candidates Image
The Westport Republican Town Committe tonight officially endorsed candidates for municipal office. Pictured (l-r) Board of Finance candidates Andrea Moore and Vik Muktavaram; First Selectman Jim Marpe, who is running for re-election; Second Selectman candidate Jen Tooker; Board of Education members Jeannie Smith and Karen Kleine, who are running for re-election; and Tom Hood, candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals. Not pictured is Jon Olefson, candidate for the Planning and Zoning Commission. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo


07/18/17 10:28 PM Comments () • Permalink

Marpe & Tooker: Their Message is ‘Continued Leadership, Experience and Results’ Image
First Selectman Jim Marpe and running mate Jen Tooker are all smiles tonight after their formal nomination by the Republican Town Committee. A RTC statement said their message is one of “continued leadership, experience, and results” and “it is resonating with voters because it is truly what distinguishes our team.”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for


07/18/17 10:20 PM Comments () • Permalink

State Employees Ratify Concessions by Wide Margin

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

Unionized state employees have overwhelmingly approved a $1.57 billion package of concessions over two years, providing major savings to help close the state budget gap. Image
Union representatives at a news conference announcing ratification of a concessions agreement with the state. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for

The focus now shifts to a closely divided General Assembly, where Republicans say they will attempt to reject the agreement.

The State Employees Bargain Agent Coalition announced that more than 80 percent of the votes cast were in favor of accepting concessions that will freeze wages and increase contributions for health and pensions.

Bargaining units representing state police troopers and assistant attorneys general did not vote on the wage concessions.

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07/18/17 11:25 AM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, July 17, 2017

P&Z Commissioner Alan Hodge Decides to Serve Out Term

UPDATE Westport Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commissioner Alan Hodge has retracted his intent to resign and the Democrat will serve out his term until November, Chair Cathy Walsh announced today. Image
Alan Hodge: changed his mind about resigning. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

It was announced at Thursday’s meeting that Hodge had submitted his resignation, but Walsh, a Republican, said at the time she had not yet accepted it. (See WestportNow July 13, 2017)

Republican member Chip Stephens told the meeting Hodge was “a victim of political nastiness.” Hodge was not endorsed for a new term by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) in a list released Sunday. (See WestportNow July 16, 2017)

DTC Nominating Committee Chair Andy Nevas said Hodge did not respond to an email sent to incumbents asking if they wished to seek re-election nor to a general email seeking nominees. “Mr. Hodge never responded to any of these emails,” he said.

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07/17/17 03:10 PM Comments () • Permalink

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Democrats Announce Endorsed Candidates

The Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) tonight announced its endorsed candidates for the November municipal election. Formal nominations will be made Tuesday. Image

As previously announced, Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer make up the top of the ticket for first selectman and second selectman.

Two incumbents were each endorsed for the Board of Finance and Board of Education as well as two on the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

But incumbent P&Z Commissioner Alan Hodge was dropped in favor of Jill Saluck, an employment litigation attorney.

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07/16/17 10:32 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, July 13, 2017

‘Political Nastiness’ Cited as P&Z’s Alan Hodge Submits Resignation

UPDATE Alan Hodge, a Westport Planning and Zoning Commissioner, has submitted his resignation, members were told tonight. Image
Alan Hodge: resignation submitted but not yet accepted. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Elected in 2013 on the Democratic ticket, Hodge supported Republican Chip Stephens as the P&Z chair soon afterward and often voted with Republicans. The chair of the Democratic Town Committee sharply criticized Hodge’s support of Stephens.

“I think Alan was a victim of political nastiness, and for a guy who worked so hard for us and was a neutral person, I’m very sorry it ended this way,” said Stephens at the end of tonight’s meeting in disclosing Hodge’s resignation.

He added: “Hopefully none of us will have to go through what he has gone through.”

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07/13/17 10:55 PM Comments () • Permalink

Malloy Recognizes his Budget Proposal is $121M Out of Balance

By Keith M. Phaneuf

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said repeatedly that all of the budgets legislative caucuses have proposed are so flawed he would veto them.

But the Malloy administration conceded this week that there are some holes in the governor’s budget as well — worth more than $120 million.

The $40.6 billion, two-year budget Malloy unveiled on May 15 effectively assumes $46.7 million in labor savings in the first year and $74.5 million in the second that the administration now acknowledges it can’t achieve — at least as originally planned.

Why? Because those cost-saving measures — which largely involve reducing staff and closing and consolidating facilities — would require layoffs that would be prohibited for four years under the concessions deal pending before state employee unions.

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07/13/17 09:53 AM Comments () • Permalink

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Westport Trump Voter Tells Yahoo: ‘He’s a Nutcase’

A Westport man who voted for Donald Trump was one of those cited by Yahoo Finance today as regretting it. Image
Jim McDonald: would back impeachment effort. photo

Jim McDonald, 62, a former Wall Street trader, told Yahoo that he voted for Trump because he agreed with Trump’s calls for better trade deals, lower taxes, deregulating banks and bringing down drug prices.

But he has seen little action on those issues, however, and is appalled Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

“His environmental policies might harm me or my two offspring, who are in their 20s,” he said. “The guy’s a nutcase and nothing can get done because he’s too busy talking about Joe Scarborough or insulting the prime minister of Germany.

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07/12/17 09:14 PM Comments () • Permalink

Murphy Raises $2M in Last Quarter

By Kyle Constable

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said today he raised $2 million for his 2018 re-election campaign in the last quarter, bringing his total cash on hand to $5.1 million.

Murphy said the amount he has raised since the beginning of the year is about half what he raised in the entirety of his first campaign in 2012. He raised about $3 million in the first quarter of 2017.

“I’ve never seen anything like the passion on the ground in Connecticut right now,” Murphy said. “Everywhere I go in the state, people tell me they are deeply worried about the direction Congress is taking the country.”

While the campaign’s quarterly filing is not yet available on the Federal Election Commission website, Murphy said 93 percent of the nearly 90,000 contributions he has received this year have been for $100 or less.

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07/12/17 07:52 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, July 10, 2017

Westporter Obsitnik Raises $201,000 to Explore Statewide Run

Westport Republican Steve Obsitnik announced today that his exploratory campaign for a statewide office run has raised $201,567 from more than 1,700 donors. Image
Steve Obsitnik: “On road to ruin.” Contributed photo

A $250,000 threshold is needed to get public funding.

“We had a great second quarter,” said Obsitnik. “I think it’s because people are tired of the same career politicians who have run our state into the ground and want to see a new approach.”

Obsitnik who was unopposed when he won the Republican nomination in 2012 for the U.S. House of Representatives, was defeated by Democrat Jim Himes who was running for reelection that year. Himes has held the seat since 2009.

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07/10/17 08:24 PM Comments () • Permalink

Friday, July 07, 2017

Malloy Vetoes 8-30G Reform Bill; Override Possible

By Kyle Constable

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today he has vetoed legislation that would have loosened the state’s affordable housing standards. It is Malloy’s first veto of the session.

The bill would have modified the state’s 8-30g law, which pushes – but does not require – all municipalities to have 10 percent of their housing stock deemed affordable.

Until that threshold is reached, developers building affordable units are allowed to bypass local zoning laws, which has led to resistance and backlash from some municipalities, many of them suburban.

This legislation would have made it easier for cities and towns to reach the threshold necessary to halt unrestricted development by qualifying for multi-year moratoriums. It received wide bipartisan support in the General Assembly, passing the House by a vote of 116-33 and the Senate 30-6.

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07/07/17 05:29 PM Comments () • Permalink

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